ORACLE PARK — The San Francisco Giants outfield will look a bit different for the series opener against the Cincinnati Reds, but familiar, all the same.
Steven Duggar is back in center field, Mac Williamson is in right and Tyler Austin — fresh off hitting his first two home runs as a Giant — is in left.
The day off for center fielder Kevin Pillar is solely because he has played in every game since coming over in a trade from the Toronto Blue Jays on April 2. That’s 32 straight games, all but one of them starts. Pillar has played in at least 142 games in each of his four previous full seasons in the Major Leagues, averaging 150 games per season.
“Pillar, we had a rainout a couple days ago, but I think he’s played in 25, 30 consecutive games, plus with Tyler, he had a great day yesterday, it just allows us to keep him going, get Mac in there,” Bochy said. “Duggar goes to center — who knows center field here very well now — and it gives Pillar a day. We’ll do this, to keep them all involved.”
Williamson is at the very least familiar with right field, while Austin has slowly been getting used to left. San Francisco sees no need to give him a pop quiz in fielding balls off the right field wall.
“Mac, he’s played a lot of right field, so he’s comfortable there. With Austin, he hasn’t had a lot of time out there,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “If it’s a tight game or tied game, you’ll see us make a change late, just because of his lack of experience out there. We really haven’t been on the field much, in Colorado because of the weather. We haven’t had a chance to spend a lot of time out there.”
The snow in Denver was only one of the myriad oddities that sprinkled San Francisco’s most recent road trip. There was a rainout, a bee delay, two comeback wins and a total of 90 runs scored in six games.
“You never know in this game,” Bochy said. “They had some pretty good snow, and they were hitting home runs, I was thinking, ‘At least maybe this’ll be more of a pitchers’ ballpark,’ and by the time I thought that, a couple balls left the park. That shows you how much I know. That was a wild trip, with the runs scored, the comebacks, both the teams, Cincinnati, Colorado and us, we all three I guess put up a lot of runs, great comebacks. It was a busy trip with a lot of action.”
Some of that action including Pablo Sandoval’s second career pitching appearance. On Saturday, a Let Pablo Pitch bobblehead will be given away to the first 30,000 fans at Oracle Park, commemorating his memorable appearnce last season.
Bochy said jokingly that Pablo is not scheduled to pitch on his bobblehead day.
”I hope he doesn’t pitch,” he added.
When the Giants arrived home, they were greeted by yet another unusual site at a baseball stadium: The Stanley Cup. The venerable hockey trophy sat on the bench before the series opener, with the NHL’s Western Conference Final set for this weekend in San Jose.
It was then taken out to the mound for a little batting practice, serving a photo op as a ball repository for BP pitcher Hensley Muellens.
“Look at Bammer get it,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “You think he’s ever seen a hockey game?”
Sacramento River Cats pitching coach Steve Kline is up for one game to replace pitching coach Curt Young, who is in Arizona to attend his daughter’s college graduation from the University of Arizona. Kline, a left-hander who pitched in the big leagues for 10 years, played for the Giants from 2006-07, playing his last season for San Francisco during Bochy’s first.
“This is a way to reward him a little bit,” Bochy said. “He’s here to help out Matt [Herges] and get a game here, and Sacramento’s close to us. For me, he was always ready to take the ball, and in fact, he never said he couldn’t go. You had to take it from him. He was always a great team player who would do anything for your club.”
The Giants have scored precisely two runs in the first innings of games this season. Both have been on sacrifice flies. That’s dead last in the majors bya wide margin. San Francisco has averaged 0.05 runs in the first inning per game. The Miami Marlins have averaged 0.22.
“I hope it’s a fluke. I hope it’s not a pattern,” Bochy said. “It has been for a little bit here … You try to analyze it, it’s tough. It is … You talk about it, make sure you let the players know and you have to do something about it. Now, whether it’s how we prepare, our mental side, how we come out, turn up intensity, anything we can do to fix that. They’re trying, trust me. We’ve talked about it. It has been a big issue for us, those early runs.”
Buster Posey, who suffered a concussion when Eugenio Suarez fouled an 87-mph Jeff Samardzija cutter off his mask in the fifth inning on Sunday, will visit a doctor at some point Friday. Bochy said he’s “doing alright,” but the Giants won’t know more until later this evening. Posey was placed on the concussion list for the second time in his career on Thursday.